Downtown San Francisco: Slowest Pandemic Recovery of 62 U.S. Cities

San Francisco’s downtown has experienced the slowest recovery of any major U.S. city center since the coronavirus pandemic, placing dead last in measurements of cell phone data activity.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday:

Downtown San Francisco continues to have the weakest recovery from the pandemic out of 62 North American cities as of November 2022, with only 31% of its fall 2019 activity based on mobile phone data, a new study shows.

San Francisco has lost tens of thousands of residents in the last three years and has been at or near the bottom of the rankings throughout the pandemic, which the study’s authors from the University of Toronto and UC Berkeley have blamed on the city’s reliance on office jobs that are easily done remotely. Those include professional, scientific, and technical services, which made up 31% of the downtown workforce as of 2019, and information, which includes many tech jobs and made up over 9% of the workforce in 2019, according to census data.

The slow recovery of San Francisco’s downtown has dire implications for the city budget, which has a projected $728 million deficit over the next two fiscal years, while BART and Muni transit agencies are also facing potential doomsday scenarios. The absence of workers and visitors has also strangled the business prospects of local restaurants and shops.

As Breitbart News noted last year, the Chronicle warned that San Francisco’s downtown area was near “collapse.” And as the Wall Street Journal had noted, the city’s downtown area had a 52% vacancy rate in office attendance, spelling doom for many small businesses in the area.

Workers and businesses used to covet a San Francisco address, as it meant being close to the heart of the tech boom, as well as an unparalleled urban culture. Many were willing to tolerate the high cost of living, and cramped living conditions, to be near the action.

But rising crime, homelessness, and drug use over the past decade fueled an exodus of residents that only accelerated during the strict lockdowns of the coronavirus pandemic. And residents and workers have not returned.

The study, available at, includes extensive data, as well as a ranking of cities. San Francisco is dead last; Salt Lake City, Utah, has enjoyed the most robust recovery of any U.S. city.



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